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Nicomachean Ethics   


of entirely slavish character that become like this. But with regard
to the pleasures peculiar to individuals many people go wrong and in
many ways. For while the people who are 'fond of so and so' are so
called because they delight either in the wrong things, or more than
most people do, or in the wrong way, the self-indulgent exceed in all
three ways; they both delight in some things that they ought not to
delight in (since they are hateful), and if one ought to delight in
some of the things they delight in, they do so more than one ought and
than most men do.
Plainly, then, excess with regard to pleasures is self-indulgence and
is culpable; with regard to pains one is not, as in the case of
courage, called temperate for facing them or self-indulgent for not
doing so, but the selfindulgent man is so called because he is pained
more than he ought at not getting pleasant things (even his pain being
caused by pleasure), and the temperate man is so called because he is
not pained at the absence of what is pleasant and at his abstinence
from it.
The self-indulgent man, then, craves for all pleasant things or those
that are most pleasant, and is led by his appetite to choose these at
the cost of everything else; hence he is pained both when he fails to
get them and when he is merely craving for them (for appetite involves
pain); but it seems absurd to be pained for the sake of pleasure.
People who fall short with regard to pleasures and delight in them
less than they should are hardly found; for such insensibility is not
human. Even the other animals distinguish different kinds of food and
enjoy some and not others; and if there is any one who finds nothing
pleasant and nothing more attractive than anything else, he must be
something quite different from a man; this sort of person has not
received a name because he hardly occurs. The temperate man occupies a
middle position with regard to these objects. For he neither enjoys
the things that the self-indulgent man enjoys most-but rather dislikes
them-nor in general the things that he should not, nor anything of
this sort to excess, nor does he feel pain or craving when they are
absent, or does so only to a moderate degree, and not more than he
should, nor when he should not, and so on; but the things that, being
pleasant, make for health or for good condition, he will desire
moderately and as he should, and also other pleasant things if they
are not hindrances to these ends, or contrary to what is noble, or
beyond his means. For he who neglects these conditions loves such
pleasures more than they are worth, but the temperate man is not that
sort of person, but the sort of person that the right rule prescribes.
12
Self-indulgence is more like a voluntary state than cowardice. For the
former is actuated by pleasure, the latter by pain, of which the one
is to be chosen and the other to be avoided; and pain upsets and
destroys the nature of the person who feels it, while pleasure does
nothing of the sort. Therefore self-indulgence is more voluntary.
Hence also it is more a matter of reproach; for it is easier to become
accustomed to its objects, since there are many things of this sort in
life, and the process of habituation to them is free from danger,
while with terrible objects the reverse is the case. But cowardice
would seem to be voluntary in a different degree from its particular
manifestations; for it is itself painless, but in these we are upset
by pain, so that we even throw down our arms and disgrace ourselves in
other ways; hence our acts are even thought to be done under
compulsion. For the self-indulgent man, on the other hand, the
particular acts are voluntary (for he does them with craving and
desire), but the whole state is less so; for no one craves to be
self-indulgent.
The name self-indulgence is applied also to childish faults; for they
bear a certain resemblance to what we have been considering. Which is
called after which, makes no difference to our present purpose;
plainly, however, the later is called after the earlier. The
transference of the name seems not a bad one; for that which desires

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